London 2012 Olympics: Opening ceremony now a week away, will we WOW the world?
16:56 EST, 19 July 2012
17:51 EST, 19 July 2012
There’s just a week to go until the Olympic Games open in London. The eyes of the world will be on us — more than one billion are expected to tune in — so what sort of show will we be putting on?
Preparations for the three-hour Opening Ceremony are in full swing, with the 10,000 volunteer performers now attending thrice-weekly rehearsals. If any of them miss a single rehearsal, they are told not to come back.
Danny Boyle, who directed Slumdog Millionaire, is in creative charge, and as new pictures of the scenes inside the stadium reveal, the show will essentially tell the story of the making of Britain — culturally, socially and politically.
The Olympic Stadium is being prepared for the opening ceremony taking place in less than a week
The high point will be the lighting of the flame — almost certainly by Olympic hero Daley Thompson, who happens to be good friends with Seb Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games.
So what do we know about the show so far? And will it be the Greatest Show On Earth?
A giant snub
Both of them are too gracious to say anything, but there are two miffed theatrical titans out there. Lord Lloyd-Webber and Sir Cameron Mackintosh were passed over in favour of leftie darlings Danny Boyle and Stephen Daldry, director of the Billy Elliot movie.
Michael Coveney, the critic at large at Whatsonstage.com, said: ‘I think there’s a sense of a snub. Both Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber would be the obvious choices.
‘Indications are that this is going to be a highbrow event — a kind of imagining of a mythical England.’
have flouted the usual 7.30pm start because they require dark for
fireworks. The finish is expected to be after midnight.
least 100 Team GB competitors won’t march in the parade because they’ll
be competing next morning. And the 75-strong track and field team,
including Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Dai Greene, will be in Portugal at
a preparation camp, as their events start in the second week of the
The home nation is traditionally the
last to appear of 204 national teams in the athletes’ parade. Those
staying in the main athletes’ village have been told they will get back
at 12.30am. The rowers, who are based further away, will return to their
beds by 2.30 am.
Gents: Dressed in a way which has been deemed to represent Britain, performers prepare for the rehearsals at the Olympic stadium in Stratford
Female performers clutching hot drinks and passes are taking a break from the rehearsals
Isles of Wonder
cultural part of the ceremony has been titled Isles of Wonder after a
line by Prospero in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The reason for
the plural is that Boyle is presenting the many different sides of
Britain — from the green Tellytubbyland vista which he unveiled last
month, to the grim and grey industrial landscape which will follow it.
Artists perform during the Team Welcome Ceremony Rehersal at Olympic Park in London earlier this week
Boyle says: ‘Our Isles Of Wonder celebrates the exuberant creativity of the British genius in an Opening Ceremony that we hope will be as unpredictable and inventive as the British people.’
The main stadium will be transformed into a meadow, with real grass laid over the infield and a game of cricket unfolding in one corner. At one end there’ll be a replica of Glastonbury Tor, the ancient site in Somerset which is linked to Arthurian legend.
In front of the Tor will be a mosh-pit, to replicate the dance area in front of the stage at the Glastonbury Festival. Here, up to 100 members of the public who have bought tickets will be allowed to stand.
At the other end of the stadium,
beneath a giant bell, will be the ‘posh-pit’ — so named by Danny Boyle
because the public there will be reflecting the spirit of promenaders at
Last Night of the Proms.
There will also be four giant Maypoles representing England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
green will give way to an industrial landscape with models of The
Gherkin, the Houses of Parliament and the Royal Albert Hall which have
been built at a site in Dagenham. Performers will recreate the Jarrow
march of 1936, when 200 men walked to London to protest about
unemployment and poverty in the North-East.
NHS will be honoured by real nurses pushing hospital beds around the
arena, and there’ll also be a tribute to the suffragette movement.
Performers will also pay homage to The Beatles.
Pitch perfect: The stadium and the performers are nearly ready for the ceremony which has a cast of over 10,000 people
will play during the ‘cultural element’ of the show. The 86 tracks have
been mixed by techno favourites Underworld. Among the tunes are the
Eton Boating Song, the theme from Chariots Of Fire, Firestarter by The
Prodigy, London Calling by the Clash, the theme from EastEnders and the
will be clouds of fake rain, which will sprinkle the volunteers and
some of the audience. There’ll also be miming by the London
Philharmonic, which recorded its parts of the show some weeks ago in the
Abbey Road studios. Boyle says the problem is that the orchestra will
be at the mercy of the weather on the night, which could ruin the sound.
Head of State, the Queen will be received at the entrance of the
Olympic Stadium by the President of the IOC, Jaques Rogge. This will be
followed by a procession of the participating teams, nation by nation.
Seb Coe will give a speech, then Jacques Rogge, and they will invite the
Queen to officially declare the Games open.
Lighting the cauldron
climax of proceedings is the arrival of the flame at the Olympic
Stadium. It will be carried through the streets of East London by the
final torch-bearer and will arrive at the stadium around midnight.
have now stopped taking bets on who gets to light the flame, though
they say they had quite a lot put on Sir Steve Redgrave.
said: ‘I have no role in choosing who lights the flame because I have
absented myself from the process. I would nominate Daley Thompson, not
only because he’s a mate but because I believe he is the greatest
Olympian we have produced in this country.’
P.S. forget Beijing
the last Opening Ceremony was spectacular — but the budget is thought
to have hovered around £200 m. Ours, which has cost £27 m, is not trying
Spokesman Paul Woodmansey says: ‘This will be a ceremony which is appropriate for our times.’
A river runs through it: The Thames takes centre stage for the Olympic opening ceremony seen in this aerial shot of the ceremony preparations